Published On: Tue, Dec 10th, 2013

Electro Harmonix Deluxe Bass Big Muff Pi Review

The new Deluxe version of the classic bass fuzz monster comes with new Blend, Gate and Crossover controls. Review by Gareth Morgan

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Description: Dedicated bass guitar distortion pedal. Made in the USA

Price: £109

Contact:  www.ehx.com

Electro-Harmonix was founded in New York by Mike Matthews in 1968. Three years on, EHX and Matthews hit paydirt when, while trying to design a distortion-free sustainer, he created what became the Big Muff Pi. It proved to be a popular mistake, appreciated by bassists such as Metallica’s Cliff Burton just as much as by guitarists.
EHX has taken the ‘bigger and better’ approach with this pedal: it’s half as big again as a Bass Big Muff Pi (reviewed in G&B April 2009).

The aluminium box stands 144mm wide, 60mm high (including knobs) and 119mm deep, with twice the number of smooth-travelling black plastic controls and stomp switches. Alongside the original controls – Volume, which balances effected and bypassed level; Tone, for bass/treble emphasis; and Sustain, which alters distortion intensity and sustain – EHX has added Blend (to adjust the mix of dry and distorted signal) and Gate, a noisegate which dictates the strength of signal needed to ignite the effect.

The Crossover section is also new, with HPF and LPF controls and its own on/off switch. Combining both controls allows you to decide exactly how fat or muddy the bottom end is and how snarling and aggressive the top end is. Elsewhere there’s a 0/-10dB mini toggle for active/passive basses, Input, Direct Output and Output jack sockets, and a balanced DI Out.

Sounds
While the basic Big Muff unit was certainly a fine, upstanding member of the bass distortion pedal club, this unit’s added Blend control lets you choose whether the Deluxe’s nasty, saturated distortion is a volcanic eruption or merely a sinister shadow. In a power trio context, for example, kicking it in under guitar solos fills extra space and can even suggest the presence of rhythm guitar to the listener.

In terms of distortion, there’s lot’s of good stuff to be had: Tone and Sustain at 12 o’clock is thick and gnarly with hints of the classic ’70s fuzz of the Roobarb And Custard theme. Push Tone into treble boost (clockwise) for a thinner buzzsaw sound or rotate Sustain for an explosion of white noise. Nudge Tone to the bass side and you’re in early Sabbath N.I.B. territory, huge in size and catastrophic in impact. Gate is useful, especially on full mayhem, as you can set it to minimise the amount of seepage between notes.

The Crossover section unearths a few useful variations. Turning HPF clockwise induces a honky high-mid tone that’ll cut through but which gets thinner and less audibly distorted the further you go. Rotate the LPF in the opposite direction and you get fat, snarly fundamentals. Experimentation is required, but a whole lot of fun will be the inevitable outcome.

Verdict
The Deluxe Bass Big Muff Pi is a fine bass distortion pedal. The basic version’s great, too… but a mere extra £20 buys you the Deluxe with its near-essential Blend and Gate features. Crossover isn’t quite as crucial, but it’ll come in handy for many. So go on, get some Big Muff in your life… and treat yourself by going Deluxe.

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